Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Michigan's RPS Worked: Nearly 200 Companies Now in Wind & Solar, Over 10,000 Jobs Created

There was a reason I was jumping up and down about this in 2008. A study from the Environmental Law & Policy Center out of Chicago today shows how our renewable portfolio standard and targeted state incentives worked to help companies retool and grow in the clean tech industry and create over 10,000 jobs. Go check the report for a list of companies and maps of the locations; here is the summary:

Michigan is home to nearly 200 solar and wind supply chain companies (over 50 of which supply to both industries) with more than 4,000 jobs tied to the wind industry and 6,300 to the solar industry. Clean tech is the state’s fastest growing sector, with $10 billion in announced clean energy development investments in the pipeline. The state ranks fourth in the nation for number of jobs in the solar industry and first for clean energy patents. Some of the primary drivers of Michigan’s job growth in the wind and solar industry include:

Renewable Portfolio Standard. In 2008, Michigan enacted its first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring that 10% of the utilities’ electricity supply come from renewable energy sources by 2015. The expanded renewable energy market has created more opportunity for equipment manufacturing in Michigan.

Established Industrial Manufacturing Base. Michigan’s manufacturing base has begun to respond to the national demand for wind and solar components.

SaluteSkilled High-Tech Workforce. Michigan has a trained high-tech workforce accustomed to manufacturing, and many of the skills available in the state are consistent with those needed to address the demand from the renewable energy industry.

Clean Energy Advanced Manufacturing Grants. Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth issued $39.3 million in grants and loans using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to promote private industry diversification into renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.

Leading Research and Development Spending. Michigan businesses spend over $15 billion a year in R&D spending, ahead of any other state, per dollar of gross state product. Michigan developed a strategic partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to give companies access to its alternative energy and materials research.

Strong University Base for Clean-Tech Expertise. With over 6,500 engineering degrees awarded each year, Michigan ranks fourth in the country for engineering graduates. Over a dozen Michigan universities and colleges have clean tech research programs or active renewable energy projects.

Targeted Supply Chain Development. In 2006, the state and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) completed a comprehensive renewable energy supply chain assessment and began helping existing manufacturing companies that could quickly diversify into the wind and solar industries. MEDC focused on educating potential suppliers on the industries, facilitating matchmaking with wind and solar original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers, providing industry training and supporting manufacturing and innovation through the Centers of Energy Excellence program.

Centers of Energy Excellence. In 2008, the MEDC created the Centers of Energy Excellence (COEE), a $45 million program financed by the 21st Century Jobs Fund that creates “cluster teams” and provides grants to for-profit companies that are commercializing innovative energy technologies with support from a university. Energetx Composites, Astraeus Wind Energy, and Dow Corning have leveraged millions in funding through COEE designations.

Business Incentives. Michigan has used several incentives including business tax credits for supply chain development and work force expansion, as well as renewable energy renaissance zone designations.

We need a higher state RPS (most states have set higher standards), or perhaps a federal standard for everyone, but with Republicans in control here and in the House in DC, don't look for it anytime soon. With Snyder eliminating the incentives for Michigan, chances are we are going to lose this business to other states for the time being. And that's a shame. Perhaps a change in attitude will be in order once it's discovered that companies are locating and growing elsewhere. Or, perhaps a change in leadership will be necessary, if certain parties insist on being stubborn. Can we afford to lose four years? Good question.

Hopes are that what we have started can continue to grow. Thank you Governor Granholm, and yes, thank you to our previous Legislature as well. This is a legacy you can be proud of.

UPDATE 3/23: Speaking of the Governor, she's going to be taking the Michigan show on the road for the folks at Pew Charitable Trusts:

Granholm said she’ll use Michigan as an example of how to develop an advanced battery industry for an emerging market for electric-powered vehicles. She said clean energy is “the mother of all markets,” and the U.S. must not fall behind China and Europe in producing renewable energy products.

“Our goal here is to use the Michigan experience in creating energy jobs, to say to America that policy matters,” Granholm said in a Free Press telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “If the right national policy is in place, then jobs will be created across the country, and the United States will be more independent of foreign oil.”

Granholm said the lack of a national manufacturing policy is a major factor in the decline of cities like Detroit, and that Michigan’s manufacturing know-how could help it gain more clean energy jobs – if the federal government helps.

The public is certainly for it. In a Feb. Gallup survey on eight actions that Congress could take this year, "pass a bill that provides incentives for using solar and other alternative energy sources" came in first place with a whopping 83%-15% approval.

Can you imagine if the Democrats were as tenacious about renewable energy policy as the Republicans are about tax cuts? We could lead the world.